Identification and characterisation of microRNAs and Piwi-interacting RNAs in cockerels’ spermatozoa by Solexa sequencing

<p>1. There has been substantial research focused on the roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) derived from mammalian spermatozoa; however, comparatively little is known about the role of spermatozoa-derived miRNAs and piRNAs within breeding cockerels’ spermatozoa.</p> <p>2. A small RNA library of cockerels’ spermatozoa was constructed using Illumina high-throughput sequencing technology. Unique sequences with lengths of 18–26 nucleotides were mapped to miRBase 21.0 and unique sequences with lengths of 25–37 nucleotides were mapped to a piRNA database. A total of 1311 miRNAs and 2448 potential piRNAs were identified. Based on stem-loop qRT-PCR, 8 miRNAs were validated.</p> <p>3. Potential target genes of the abundant miRNAs were predicted, and further Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes database (KEGG) and Gene Ontology (GO) analyses were performed, which revealed that some candidate miRNAs were involved in the spermatogenesis process, spermatozoa epigenetic programming and further embryonic development.</p> <p>5. GO and KEGG analyses based on mapping genes of expressed piRNAs were performed, which revealed that spermatozoal piRNAs could play important regulatory roles in embryonic development of offspring.</p> <p>6. The search for endogenous spermatozoa miRNAs and piRNAs will contribute to a preliminary database for functional and molecular mechanistic studies in embryonic development and spermatozoa epigenetic programming.</p>